Offense may get noticed, but it’s defense that gets wins. Fortunately for sophomore middle hitter Daniela Fornaciari, she can do both.
Fornaciari has made her presence felt throughout the Ivy League. She currently leads Penn volleyball in blocks with 51 on the season, and has generated an astounding 0.84 blocks per set, good for eighth in the Ivy League.
While most people who play volleyball pick up the sport during high school, the San Diego native began playing when she was nine years old.
“There was a clinic at my elementary school after school, and I signed up for it and fell in love, so I’ve been playing ever since,” Fornaciari said.
Fornaciari, who has always been one of the taller members of her team, plays middle hitter, a position whose main focus is to block the other team’s kill opportunities. Middle hitters must be reliant on their defensive ability and instinct to be successful.
“I really like playing middle [hitter] because I think it’s one of the more underrated positions, because we have to work hard," Fornaciari said. “It’s not necessarily the position that gets the most glory or noticed, but it’s really important for the team’s success."
As a sophomore, Fornaciari has found herself playing more sets than her freshman year, and both her offensive and defensive game have benefitted as a result. Fornaciari is fourth on the team with 104 kills and nine service aces, adding a multidimensional aspect to her game that she has focused on in the past year. Despite having tremendous awareness and skill, Fornaciari credits some of her success to her position.
“I think [junior middle hitter Caroline Leng] is only a few behind me [in blocks] but we both are working hard this season" she said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily anything I’m doing in particular, just the name of the game."
Her improvements over the past year are not just on the court, however. Being such an integral part of the team, Fornaciari has stepped into a leadership role, guiding and supporting younger players both in practice and during games.
“This year I’ve made a big effort to make sure the freshmen feel welcome because our upperclassmen did a great job with us, so I want everyone who joins the Penn volleyball team to feel welcomed,” Fornaciari said.
Fornaciari hopes to continue to be on the Ivy League leaderboard in blocks as the season progresses, while also doing whatever she can to help the team generate wins. Despite some recent struggles within Ivy League play, she still feels confident in the team.
“I think this is a really special team and everyone is so talented; obviously our record does not reflect that right now, so I think moving forward in the season we are definitely looking to get some numbers that prove the talent we have,” she said.
The Quakers’ (9-8, 2-6 Ivy) next match is against Columbia (10-8, 3-5) on Friday, where they will look to turn their season around and gain some ground in the Ivy League.